Weston soccer community comes together to help Haitian teens

Youth soccer team missed 2 games, found hotel wasn't paid for

WESTON, Fla. – The Haitian youth soccer team had already missed two games when they arrived on Saturday for the Weston Cup and Showcase Tournament.

To make things worse, the hotel rooms they thought had been paid for were not.

Larry Paul said not knowing where they would sleep was the toughest part of the experience.

So the 15 teenaged Haitian soccer players didn't know what to do. Their coach had stayed behind and didn't plan to come until Monday -- the last day of the tournament.

Yurris Joseph, 16, blames it on the coach.

"He told us all the rooms were paid for. All we had to say our names, but that that wasn't the case," said Iram Vilsaint, 19, who took a bus from Connecticut to South Florida initially thinking he could help translate.

"I came here when I was 7, so I know what it's like not knowing anyone," Vilsaint said outside the Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Weston, where they're staying.

"When we came down, we ended up being the coaches, translators and guardians for over 15 kids," Vilsaint said.

It is still unclear what happened where the money was spent, but all that didn't matter for the Weston soccer community who pulled together to get these kids back on the field.

"With this particular team it was unfortunate that they're organizers weren't very much prepared, but we were able to step in and help," said tournament director Bill Fisher.

Fisher said families came forward with cash, the host Weston Futbol Club and others helped with transportation and equipment costs and the Bonaventure Hotel helped with rooms.

"As a parent, it's very hurtful to see such an event happen to them," said Manga Merlet, a mother who helped.
"We are incredibly grateful -- beyond grateful," Vilsaint said on behalf of the team.

"We never thought people would donate money, give us equipment and give us free rooms," he added.

"The nice thing about soccer is that it brings cultures together. It brings people together," Fisher said.

The Haitian youth team was expected to return to Haiti on Tuesday after playing five games. They only won one game.

The Weston Cup and Showcase, which is hosted by the Weston Futbol Club, attracts more than 600 national and international teams. During the tournament, more than 20,000 people attend.